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Pomona College junior a delegate at Climate Change Conference

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com
Pomona College junior Gigi Buddie was in Scotland, a delegate at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
The 21-year-old was invited to the global event, which wrapped up November 12 in Glasgow, after developing a multimedia art exhibit highlighting Indigenous leaders in the fight against climate change.
Of Indigenous Tongva and Mescalero heritage, Buddie was part of the Glasgow delegation for the nonprofit Human Impacts Institute, which uses art and culture to help spur environmental action. She was selected for her work on “Human Impact Stories: The Climate Crossroads,” a group of portraits and interviews with 10 Indigenous climate activists that was exhibited Nov. 2-4 at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts.
“I had a lot of conversations with my delegation about climate grief and hope,” Buddie said. “And funnily enough, I think I walk away from something as overwhelming as COP with more hope. I think it was an incredible experience to see people — youth especially — from all walks of life, and especially fault line communities as well, from all over the world, coming together in Glasgow to protest, to want their voices to be heard.
The experience was understandably somewhat overwhelming for the actor and performance major, set to graduate in May 2023.
Buddie said “There’s always a million things going on” at the conference. “There’s always a million things going on that you don’t completely understand. It’s this intense environment where there’s so much activism and passion and policy being negotiated. There’s so many people yelling, and who do you listen to? But it was also a very eye-opening and inspiring experience.”
After gaining her footing, Buddie came away most encouraged by the youth activists at the conference, who ranged in age from seven to 25.
“It’s been very inspiring to see youth out there wanting to make a change,” she said. “It’s also disheartening to know that’s the burden that’s been placed on them.”
She was close to the action, in the “blue zone,” where world leaders were negotiating and the international press was doing its thing. It’s where community and country pavilions were housed, and exhibits and breakout conferences were taking place.
Her preconceptions about the summit turned out to be partially accurate.
“It just seemed so big and scary and far removed, and I think it in a lot of ways is that,” Buddie said. “But in a lot of ways walking into it, every feeling and thought that I had about what this space would be was magnified. It was like triple. All these feelings were just completely magnified in this space of so much happening, so much at stake. I think it is big and scary, but I also think the people that are there on the ground doing the work are the reason I felt so welcome in that space too.”
The summit was controversial in that leaders of both China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide (followed by the U.S.), and Russia, the fifth largest, did not attend.
“Do I have a lot of hope for our world leaders? I don’t know,” Buddie said. “That question I don’t know if I could answer, but I walk away from the United Nations Climate Summit with more hope for what our youth can do. They’re the past, the present, the future, and I’m just so honored to be part of that movement with them.”
Buddie grew up in the Bay Area, on Coast Miwok land. Her environmental activism took root there, organically.
“I think that a lot of my own cultural and traditional understandings of the way that the world works, and my communities, and a lot of Indigenous communities, are so interconnected with how the world works, how it breathes, how it lives,” she said. “I just think in that part of my identity I already felt so connected to what we were doing to the earth and what the earth was doing to us.”
Coming to Pomona College and availing herself to its rich liberal arts curriculum solidified that connection.
“That how I found it; I found it through theater; I found it through connection that it has through art.”
Buddie hopes to use the stage to help her get the message out about climate change and climate justice.
“You quite literally have space, you have a platform, where you’re able to give the audience something,” she said. “And if you have that platform, why don’t you give them the stories that they’re not hearing of climate leaders? Why don’t you give them this hope and this knowledge that they feel so disconnected from because academic jargon is so inaccessible?”
Along with theater, she listed poetry and visual art as great jumping off points for folks wanting to get involved with climate justice, Buddie said.
“I think that art is a beautiful way to get involved, and have it be something that you can connect to and relate to on a level that is personal that doesn’t seem so detached.”
Folks who would like to learn more about the young actor and activist’s art and activism can follow her on Instagram at @gigibuddie. For information on Pomona College Theater Department, go to pomona.edu/academics/departments/theatre/news-events.
“The climate crisis is something that affects every single field, every single person, whether you choose to accept it now or in 10 years, when it’s smacking you in the face,” Buddie said. “That’s a personal thing. That’s why I go to conferences. That’s why I do this work, is to try to get people to understand and take action.”

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